Watching and Waiting in Chaotic Times

A reflection for the first Sunday in Advent

By Sr. Elizabeth Langmead, MHSH
President, Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart

Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/112920.cfm

 

Our Advent season opens with Jesus saying to his disciples, “Be watchful! Be alert!”  Again, at the end of our Gospel reading Jesus says, “What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”   Watch for what?  Watch for who?  This Advent season is like no other as we live in this time of Covid-19 with great unrest and division in our country and in the world.  We wait for healing, we wait for peace, we wait for a vaccine.  We focus our Advent waiting and watching on the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior.  In faith, we trust that Emmanuel God is with us.  In St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians we are reminded of the grace of God given to us in Christ Jesus.  We are reminded that as we wait, we are not lacking in any spiritual gift.  We have all that we need to prepare.  This time of Advent – this time before Christmas, we are given the invitation to deepen our awareness of God’s love for us and for all the world.  Just as Mary prepared for the birth of Jesus, we are invited to ready that space within us for something new to be born.  As we wait to welcome the Light of the world, we are called to be light for the world.  What does that mean in your life?  What would a deeper awareness of God’s love look like in your life?

 

We know that we come to discover our selves in and through our relationships.  Advent is an opportunity to take some time, to make some space in our busy lives to sit in quiet and deepen our relationship with God.  Tell God what it is you hope for, ask God to help you let go of whatever keeps you from loving with an open heart.  Confide your fears and concerns to God who loves and cares for you more than you can imagine.  Become aware of who you are becoming during this Advent season, not just about what you are doing.  As you wait, you may want to invite Mary and/or Joseph to wait with you.  Try to imagine their preparation, their hopes and dreams, their fears and concerns.

 

We pray, ‘Come Lord Jesus, come into our waiting, keep us alert and watching as we awaken anew to your presence within us and all around us.  Thank you for this time and may we use it to deepen our commitment to follow you and be instruments of your peace.’

 

 

 

 

 

Healing Heart

By Sr. Carole Ruland, MHSH

(This post is part 2 in a six part series on “To Love Like Jesus: A Spirituality of the Heart”.  Each week, we will post a reflection based on the Litany of the Heart by Wendy M. Wright.  To read the Litany, click here.  As Women of the Heart, the Mission Helper Sisters invite you to pray and reflect with us during the next 5 weeks, as we publish one reflection each week on this rich and inviting spirituality).With us, ponder:

What would it mean to love like Jesus?
What would it mean to have a heart like his?

Healing Heart

 Lately, I have been praying with the Scriptures, to gather some of the events that express what Jesus’s Heart called him to do and to be in the world of his time.  The Gospels show us how Jesus touched the lives of the people when he walked the earth.  We are called to love and reach out to the people of today. “Spirituality of the Heart” is expressed in many different ways.  The love Jesus showed during his life on earth is our spiritual challenge of today and tomorrow in a world that needs the love of God.  We are challenged by Jesus’ life to be unconditionally loving, caring, compassionate, healing, forgiving, transforming, inclusive, and merciful.

Matthew 11:29-30 tells us: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.”  The bible tells us that when Jesus saw the crowds, his heart was filled with pity for them.  He healed those who needed healing!  He fed those who were hungry!

 We, too, often find ourselves in the midst of situations that need someone to reach out to help people.  In my hospice ministry with the dying, I felt like I was opening myself and receiving the gift of following in the footsteps of Jesus.  In turn, I was given more peace than I ever could have expected. 

We may not be able to do what Jesus could do, but the warmth in our own hearts can give some support to others.  And, when we are able to help another, we can let the love of God touch us as he did in his life.  Even a “hello” has power to lift spirits, and produce smiles. 

 

A Reflection Moment

By Sister Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH

This morning I am once again being entertained by my hummingbirds. This is the first time in my life I ever had a summer off (if one imagines recovery from surgery as a summer off) to spend quality time in the mornings or evenings during prayer observing hummingbirds dive between the feeders.

I discovered the opportunity has been a kind of inner healing experience for me.  I have heard that simply surrendering time to observe hummingbirds is a healing opportunity but now I understand and embrace it.

Several years ago while in Trinidad a friend invited me to a hummingbird sanctuary. I had never imagined how many kinds of hummingbirds there are or how many could be in one location each morning and evening at the feeders. I mean hundreds and hundreds. I felt I was in the middle of a hummingbird circus which was amazingly delightful. Thus, my love for hummingbirds grew.

Last week I even purchased (via Amazon) another Shepherd’s Hook and feeder since so many hummingbirds are fighting over the two feeders I have.  I know that soon the hummingbirds will be headed south. Thus, offering me another glance at the meaning, value, and preciousness of time. Or, how and where do we focus our time and energy along life’s journey? How many major initiatives or activities have I allowed myself to be absorbed in, worthy as they were, yet to miss perhaps the ‘little moments’ that may offer the greatest insights in life. Or, render the richest and deepest meaning and impact on life and the life of those around me.

As the early fall days draw upon us, there is now a rush of hummingbirds on the balcony each morning. They are delightful as they scatter, chase and swiftly zoom to and fro guarding their Shepherd’s Hook domain.  (Click on link below to see video). Their numbers are increasing each day simply indicating the arrival of those who are migrating from the north headed south. There, I understand, they spend our winter and prepare for their migration north once again in early summer. The hummingbirds have become a daily reminder for me of all humans who are migrating around the world today. I hold them all in prayer.  I wonder and ponder who is willing to care for them during their migration or exile? (Text continues below video).

So, during these few short weeks, my balcony is one of their ‘resting & feeding’ stopovers.  I really have found these meditative moments not only healing but bringing inner comfort peace and joy into my life.  This is what we need today in our lives. There is too much hecticness.  I hope I can bring my new inner harmony and peace into the lives of those I will encounter when I return to campus September 4th when my medical leave is over.

 

(Sr. Angela Ann is the Director of the Institute for Pastoral Initiatives and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Dayton).

 

Day 2: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

week_of_prayer_logo_216wDay 2, Called to be Messengers of Joy

Scripture

  • Isaiah 61:1-4, The spirit of the LORD God is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed.
  • Psalm 133, How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!
  • Philippians 2:1-5, Make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
  • John 15:9-12, I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

Meditation

The joy of the Gospel calls Christians to live the prophecy of Isaiah: “The spirit of the LORD God is upon me, because the LORD has appointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed.” We long for Good News to mend our broken hearts and to release us from all that binds us and makes us captive.

When we are saddened by our own suffering, we may lack the vigor to proclaim the joy that comes from Jesus. Nevertheless, even when we feel unable to give anything to anyone, by bearing witness to the little that we have, Jesus multiplies it in us and in the people around us.

In the Gospel Jesus says, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love” and “love one another as I have loved you.” It is in this way that we discover his joy in us, so that our joy may be complete. This mutual love and mutual joy is at the heart of our prayer for unity. As the psalmist says, “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!”

Prayer

God of love, look upon our willingness to serve you despite our spiritual poverty and limited abilities. Fulfil the deepest longings of our hearts with your presence. Fill our broken hearts with your healing love so that we may love as you have loved us. Grant us the gift of unity so that we may serve you with joy and share your love with all. This we ask in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

For Reflection:

  • What smothers joy in the world and in the churches?
  • What can we receive from other Christians so that Jesus’ joy may be in us, making us witnesses of the Good News?

Source: Greymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute

The “Sticky Fingers of Divine Providence” – A Refection for the Fourth Week of Lent

By Sister Jane Geiger, MHSH

[2 Chr 36:15-16, 19-23; Ps 137:1-6; Jn 3:14-21]

“Gutsy” might best describe Nicodemus:  gutsy, but not stupid. It seems he had to meet with Jesus, but he took care to come in the dark so fewer people would see—although, as part of a small population, he certainly knew that even the night has eyes and word travels fast.

So his status as a respected religious leader might have been jeopardized by his visit to a questionable “wonder worker.”  Nevertheless, he went, impelled by a hunger to understand.

Cyrus, too, seems daring. Yes, he may have wanted to deport a troublesome ethnic group, but they were also one of his main sources of labor (why does this sound familiar?), and their exodus left the country in significant need of workers.  Credit—or blame?—is attributed to God for inspiring Cyrus’ decree.

In our time, God gets less credit or blame for the decisions of humans.  Only when we look back from some decades’ distance do we perceive the sticky fingerprints of divine providence and mutter to ourselves, “So that’s where God was going,” or “So that’s why that evil was allowed to happen.”

We need to learn and relearn, all through the span of our days, that life can be drawn even from darkest death.  We need to be patient, giving God time to draw dazzling good out of deep evil.

–What “deep evil” do you see—in our world or in yourself—that you are hoping God can heal?

–How might your patient waiting and working toward that healing be in itself a work of God?

–Do you see any sticky fingerprints as you look back?

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Day 5 Prayer and Reflection

Day 5: Changed by the peace of the Risen Lord.
Scripture

Malachi 4:5-6, He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents.
Psalm 133, How good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!
Ephesians 2:14-20, To reconcile both groups to God in one body, putting to death hostility.
John 20:19-23, Jesus stood among them and said: Peace be with you!
Meditation
Malachi’s words convey God’s promise of sending God’s chosen one to establish harmony and respect in all households. He draws attention to one of the most difficult conflicts — the heartbreak in relations between parents and their offspring. This restoration of unity is not possible without God’s help. It is God’s emissary who performs the miracle of transformation in people’s hearts and relationships.
The psalm shows what great joy such unity among people can bring. Happiness consists in living in a human community in harmony, peace, trust and understanding. Living together in unity is not restricted to family members only – this is rather a declaration of the closeness between people who accept the peace of God.
The epistle tells us of Him whom the prophet Malachi announced. Jesus brings unity, because in His own body He has demolished the “wall of hostility” between people. Jesus puts an end to alienation. He transforms, heals and unites all that they may become “members of God’s household.”
“Peace be with you” is Christ’s greeting and also his gift. It is an invitation to seek peace with God and establish new, lasting relationships within the human family and all of creation. Jesus has trampled down death and sin. By the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Risen Lord invites his disciples into his mission of bringing peace, healing and forgiveness. As long as Christians remain divided, the world will not be convinced of the full truth of the Gospel. Peace and unity are the hallmarks of this transformation. The Churches need to appropriate and witness to these gifts as members of the one household of God built upon the sure foundation of Jesus as the cornerstone.

For Your Reflection

Today we celebrate the peace of the Risen Lord. The Risen One is the great Victor over death and the world of darkness. He unites His disciples, who were paralysed with fear. He opens up before us new prospects of life and of acting for His coming kingdom. The Risen Lord unites and strengthens all believers. Peace and unity are the hallmarks of our transformation in the resurrection.

  1. What forms of violence in our community can we as Christians confront together?
  2. How do we experience hidden hostilities that affect our relationship to each other as Christian communities?
  3. How can we learn to welcome each other as Christ welcomes us?

Prayer
Loving and merciful God, teach us the joy of sharing in your peace. Fill us with your Holy Spirit so that we may tear down the walls of hostility separating us. May the risen Christ, who is our peace, help us to overcome all division and unite us as members of his household. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, to whom, with You and the Holy Spirit, be all honor and glory, world without end. Amen.

Source: Greymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute

My Ministry is a Privilege

By Sister Onellys Villegas

I am a counselor at the House of Ruth Family Safety and Support Center in Beltsville, Maryland.  I knew I was called to this ministry even as I went to the mailbox to send off my resume.  And, when I was told that the work would be in the area of domestic violence, I was sure that this was where I belonged.

I work primarily with Latina women who are referred to the Center by the courts, by other social service agencies that do not handle domestic violence cases, and by agencies that work with the Latino population in the area, which is a suburb or Washington, DC.

I see as many as 30 women each week—that’s too many, but I haven’t the heart to turn anyone away.  Entering into the inner world of another person’s life is an awesome privilege and responsibility.  Together, the abused woman and I explore her pain with love, with trust and with compassion.  We work together toward her healing.

She shares her story with me and I learn about her history of domestic violence, about her parents.  I get to know where she is coming from.  It takes a long time before the woman realizes what is happening to her and, very important, that she does not deserve it!

This is the key factor in my counseling.  I tell them that there is nothing they could possibly do that would justify being beaten.  Nothing!  At first this passes over them, but when they’re ready, they come to the realization:  “No. I don’t deserve this.”  Only then are they ready to move on—and out.

I have been blessed by the trust that these women have placed in me.  They have inspired me by their courage in telling their stories and in making choices for their future.  These sacred moments of shared human feelings have moved me and transformed me.

Reflection:  Whose “inner life” do you share?  Do you think of it as a privilege or a burden?   


Celebrating Around the Throne – All Saints


By Sister Jane Geiger, MHSH

THE FEAST OF ALL SAINTS on November 1 is one that can really fire our imaginations, have cosmic dimensions and resonate down to the nitty-gritty of our lives.

We celebrate the triumph of Jesus and our salvation through the blood of the Lamb.  The Feast of All Saints joins all who have been saved in a spectacular way in a universal celebration of the unfathomable love of God for us.

Imagine…All creation, people of every nation and tongue proclaim the glory of God’s graciousness to us.  Angel choirs, patriarchs and prophets, martyrs and saints of every age join in the chorus of praise and thanksgiving.

As we reflect on this panorama, do we see murals on a wall and statues on pedestals to be admired from afar?  Or, do we allow this heavenly array to surround us and welcome us into their company?  They were once where we are now, striving to make their way through life’s journey.  Their challenges were most likely not the same ones we face today, but their lives were filled with choices and decisions.

They elected to say “yes” to the journey with Jesus in the death/resurrection mystery of life. Now, they inspire us to strive for ideals of love and service, reconciliation and healing beyond what we ever imagined we could do.  They show us that sinfulness, reluctance and unworthiness can be overcome.  It can be done!

As we live our lives today, the saints stand with us as friends, advocates and models of response to the One who shed his blood for us and loved us to his death.  No, we are not spectators, but part of the company of the holy people who surround the throne giving glory and unending praise to God.  Holy! Holy! Holy!

Who are the Saints you look to for help and guidance?